Serves me right for saying that building your own clubs is easy and rewarding.
Immediately I saw a slew of postings and E-mail following one or more of
the following patterns:
"I once made a clone club. It was a real clunker, heavy and
clumsy. I've concluded that all homemade clones (maybe all clones) are
clunkers. I'll only use name brands from now on."
This gave me pause. How come none of these matches my experience with clubmaking?
(I could only remember two "clunker" clubs I had made, on that day in 1993: one was one of my
first three, and the other was deliberately experimental.) Have I just
been lucky? Am I encouraging fellow Internetters to waste their money and time?
"I bought a club from a custom clubmaker, using the best [popular model
here] shaft and clubhead. It came out so light I can't swing it. What should
I do, and how could it have come out badly with good, expensive components
"I bought a [brand name, popular model] driver. It's my first graphite
shaft. Now, whenever it's important to get a good drive, I hit nothing
but high slices. What's wrong? I'll never use a graphite shaft again."
I mentally went over the clubs I've made in the past six years, and
noticed something interesting: After my first three clubs (a wedge, a driver,
and a putter), I spent a lot of time poring over catalogs, measuring existing
clubs, and even doing calculations before ordering the components. This
undoubtedly stems from my engineering background and my own tendency to
"design first, then measure twice to cut once."
But I'm convinced that it also warded off the "clunkers". All the clubs
since the first three have generated reactions ranging from "this feels
right; my old clubs didn't" to "this is great; can you make me one like
How come? Well, my first consideration was not what the club looked
like. The "clones" try to sell themselves on the basis that they look like
a popular model. But I've seen different companies' Ping clone heads that
cosmetically resembled Pings, but differed (from the Ping and among themselves)
in the much more important characteristics like weight, loft, and sole
shape. No wonder selecting a club based on looks results in a high percentage
Instead, I concentrate on finding out as much as I can about the
and the frame of the golfer for whom I'm making the clubs. I think
what I'm trying to accomplish, and choose the components accordingly.
may not be as much fun as making something that looks exactly like a
Taylor-Made RAC... until the golfer gets them to the course. Then the
accuracy of cloning
the "look" will matter less than the accuracy of matching the club to
golfer's game and frame.
This "web book" records the criteria I use in designing golf
clubs. It isn't a step-by-step design method; I don't think that exists.
But if you understand the material here, and apply it to the most critical
characteristics of the clubs you try to build, you're going to make very
In the centerfold of the 1998 GolfWorks catalog, attached to the order form,
is a form that says, "Planning to buy new clubs? We'll give you a free
fitting via FAX." It then has a half-page questionnaire that they consider
sufficient to make a recommendation about what to look for in a club that
matches you. While I wouldn't ask exactly the same questions
-- indeed, I don't trust the whole concept of "fitting by mail" --
I'd like to mention what they are to start you thinking about what is
important in designing a set of clubs:
In my opinion, this is a good starting point. I'd add questions about
physical measurements, swing plane, how often you play, etc.
I believe it's hard to get a full idea of what the golfer needs without
actually watching him or her hit golf balls, at least on the driving
range. But by all means remember that a very important consideration
is: what is the golfer using now, and what sort of shot does he do with those clubs? That's an essential -- and too often overlooked -- part of clubfitting.
When you hit a poor drive, do you have a specific tendency to:
(top it, sky it, hit it very low, pull it, hook it, push it, slice
it, straight but unsolid hit, very inconsistent, don't know)?
What is your confidence level with the driver?
How far does your average drive carry (no roll included)?
(up to 135, 136-170, 171-210, 211-245, 246 and up)
When you hit a poor iron shot, do you have a specific tendency to:
(same list as driver)?
What is the longest iron you hit with confidence?
On what part of the clubface do you tend to hit the ball?
(Toe, heel, center)
What best describes the direction you hit with woods and irons?
(Slice, push, straight, pull, hook)
What is your golf glove size?
From your own point of view, what do you want from the new clubs?
(Hit the ball higher, hit the ball lower, stop slicing, stop pushing
the ball, stop hooking, stop pulling the ball, hit the ball straighter,
hit the ball longer.)
Shaft material (preferred, and currently using)?
What is your current club model, size, and shaft flex?
Anyway, you should get the idea that this article on the design parameters
of golf clubs will suggest how to match the clubs to the golfer. Ignore
the considerations herein, and you will have your share of "clunkers".
What follows reflects my belief that the most important
things about a club are:
The "book" is divided into three parts:
Length and lie to match the golfer's size and swing plane.
"Heft" factors: swingweight and club moment of inertia.
"Flex" factors: shaft flex, flex profile (which will affect bend point), and torque.
Whether the clubhead is a blade or a cavity-back.
Grip size -- and is the grip in good condition.
Everything else is WAY behind these.
1. The Basics
- This introduction.
- Physical principles - reviews a few concepts
from physics before we start: centrifugal force, torque, moment of inertia, vibrational frequency,
and what about a club makes a golf ball go far.
- The swing - This applies the physics
to a few fundamental golf questions, such as: Where does the power come
from in the swing to generate clubhead speed? How does impact convert
the clubhead characteristics and clubhead velocity into launch conditions like ball
speed, launch angle, and spin? How do launch conditions translate to trajectory and distance?
2. Whole-Club Measures
These are the characteristics of the club that are not limited to a single
measurement of a single component, but rather require fitting a combination of
properties of the shaft and head to the golfer.
- Length - how long should you make
the club, and what are the design problems a nonstandard length gives you?
- Lie Angle - what clubhead lie angle will result in a level head at impact?
- Heft (swingweight and moment of inertia) - what it is, how to estimate
it from your design, how to measure it in a finished club, how to change
it, and matching it across your set.
- Shaft flex - how to select it, how to change
it, and matching it across your set.
3. Customizing the Clubs
OK, now we have the gross parameters of the clubs for a golfer.
Let's get down to specific components, clubs, and golfers.
- Customizing the clubs - given the golfer's
game and frame, what features should the club have, and how does each feature
of a club affect the way it plays?
This includes sections on:
- Special Situations - clubs for women,
clubs for children, drivers, wedges, putters, and clone clubs.
Many of these sections discuss things that a clubfitter must
consider when fitting a golfer for clubs -- things like shaft flex,
swingweight, etc. For each of these, I try to touch on:
- What is it?
- What does it do for performance? For feel? (Note that performance and feel are two different things.)
- How do you measure the golfer for it? (This is the fitting process.)
- How do you measure the club for it?
- How do you adjust it to be what you want, in a club you're building or an existing club you're modifying?
I hope this information helps you and those who use the clubs you make
as much as it has helped me, my family and friends, and a lot of clubmakers who have learned from these Design Notes.
Last modified Nov 29, 2006